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Protests in Thailand successful

Deportation of Hmong Lao refugees Stopped in Last Minute

Bolzano/Bozen, Göttingen, 30. January 2007

Hmong Women According to Society for Threatened Peoples International (STP- International / GfbV-International), the attempt to deport 153 Hmong Lao refugees from Thailand to Laos on Tuesday, 30 January 2007, could be stopped after Thailand had faced massive international protests. The deportation would have been a severe violation of International Law as all of these 153 Hmong Lao, including 77 children and 9 infants, had been screened by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and were recognized as "people of concern". Thai media had already announced the completed deportation of the group when the Thai government reacted to the protests of the European Union and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and stopped the repatriation in the very last minute.

"We are very relieved that the deportation has been stopped as the well - being or the lives of the refugees would have been endangered if they were sent back to Laos", explained the head of the Asia Department of STP-Germany, Ulrich Delius, on Tuesday, "It is a scandal how Thailand treats these Hmong who survived horrible atrocities in Laos." According to Delius it will be only a question of time until Thai officials will try again to force them back into the arms of their persecutors.

The women and children of the refugee group had already been dragged from the detention center into busses in order to be transported back over the nearby border to Laos, said eye witnesses. The men barricaded themselves in their cells and threatened to commit suicide. By using a gas (maybe tear gas) Thai officials tried to break their resistance. "Instantaneoulsly after the cries for help from eye witnesses reached us, our Hmong expert, Rebecca Sommer, asked the EU and the UNHCR to help. Thanks to their and other international efforts, the deportation could be stopped", said Delius. Only on Friday, 29 January 2007, 16 Hmong Lao refugees had been involuntarily deported from Thailand back to Laos.

Background Information:
In December 2006, the Thai and Lao government reached an agreement that they would repatriate the 6.500 Hmong Lao refugees in Thailand back to Laos. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, and the UNHCR have condemned these deportations of Hmong refugees to Laos repeatedly. In 2006, STP's Hmong expert, Rebecca Sommer, conducted hundreds of interviews with Hmong Lao who were seeking refuge in Thailand to document the extent to which Laos has committed crimes against humanity against the Hmong in-hiding in Laos. In May 2006, she published a report which describes massacres, rapes and other severe violations of human rights extensively.

According to this report, about 20.000 Hmong Lao are still hiding in the jungles of Laos. They are the descendants of former rebels who stopped fighting long ago. Nonetheless, they are being hunted down mercilessly by military forces in Laos. Their hiding zones in the jungles have been declared restricted area. From helicopters chemical weapoons, bombs and grenades are used to eliminate them. Who gets caught by the troops alive is in danger of torture, rape, mutilitation and a cruel death. Many children who have not even reached the age of 10 have become victims of such massacres, too.

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